Rabat – Being exposed every day to media coverage would reshape the minds of the audience to think the way media owners have already spread behind media outlet.
A symptom of media manipulation figures prominently in being spoken for and represented in a way that if you might be given the chance to speak you would voice different attitudes from the ones ascribed to you. One of the intriguing issues that Western media treat is the notion- if not the issue- of the Middle East.
It is undeniable to say that Western power has turned to the East to consider it as an enemy after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. In fact, to compare the Middle East, in particular, and the Orient, in general, with the west would render us nothing but fueling a state of greediness over power in the world. The doctrine of power relations is said to be a separatist political system that is fed by a structuralist, imperial and ideological underpinned force nourished by certain lobbyists and very concerned parties. In this article we will delve together into some historical facts and events to have an idea about how the notion of Middle East was created and how the Orient imagined territory was ‘fabricated’ to push the rest of the world to believe blindly in certain imperial projects.
There are various stereotypes associated with the Middle East. Diagnosing particular western media outlets would put us in the picture of how people of this region are depicted. Asking some friends to jot down words about the Middle East would be a very good experiment to know what types of associations people usually are ‘pushed’ to think about.
The most frequent expressions we hear and read about the Middle East are something related to war, Osama Bin Laden, poor, Islam, Extremism, fanaticism, and women repression, to mention but few. These concepts share in common that the Middle East is a territory where people are uncivilized.
European missionaries to the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region are cases in point. European colonization was backed up by the pretext of emancipating people from traditions, religious thoughts and barbarism. Subsequently, European countries, like France, Spain and Britain, have been able to colonize various courtiers in the MENA region.
The women repression and the veil excuses have paved ways to imperial projects of neo-colonizers to take place in Eastern countries. In contradiction to the old-frequent conception of the Middle East as a desert territory where camels are the only means of transportation to uncivilized people, the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates are considered the most important rivers in MENA region.
More importantly, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the only countries among many others which make from the veil a mandatory women clothing code. Shirin Ebadi, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, is an Iranian Islamic feminist and a dissident journalist who constituted a very nice picture about feminists who grapple for realising human rights. She interpreted Islamic laws basing on a feminist perspective to ascertain female’s rights in a country where patriarchal regime was undisputable.
The Near East, Far East and Middle East are concepts created by imperial forces for specific interests and to determine ‘zones of influence’ by British and French colonial forces. Both of the first two terms refer to a geographical territory which is comprised of the East and the Southeast of Asia. The Middle East (or Al-Ashaq Alawsat) refers to an area “between the rivers”, the Tigris and Euphrates (http://hotword.dictionary.com/east/). The ‘Orient’ is a much larger and an inclusive term which embraces countries in the three separated Easts; that is, it comprises Asia and the Middle East.
Western scholars, such as Bernard Lewis (1990) and Samuel Huntington (1997), have relied on such separatist and dichotomous relationship between a ‘civilized’ powerful nation and ‘uncivilized’ subordinated and cultural communities. In his ground-breaking book, Orientalism, Edward Said (1978) has explained how orientalists, or Middle East specialists, have settled ways to invade Arab countries. Dona Stewart, in his book, “The Middle East Today: Political, Geographical & Cultural Perspectives”, stipulated that orientalism is:
“… [A] regularized system of scholarship that contributed to the Western world’s cultural, economic and political domination of the Orient. Said’s analysis concluded that Orientalism, an allegedly objective system of Western scholarship, was in fact a highly developed web of racism and cultural stereotypes, and an institutionalized apparatus for interpreting or speaking for a mute, stagnant and ultimately inferior Orient”
(Dona S., 2009; p, 6)
Orientalism is a discourse that Westerners have relied on to define, or rather defend, themselves. Defining a self-image is done through constituting first how the ‘Other’ should looke like. Orientalism is an imperial project that has contributed to distort the image of the primitive community in favor of paving the way to (neo-)colonization. Such distortion is related to a short availability of information about the Orient.
Because of geographical constraints, the West is undermined to establish a direct relationship with the Orient. In one of the courses to which we have been introduced to in “Intercultural Communication”, I still remember that I have asked an American guest about how Western media, especially American ones, depict the Orient. “American media is very biased,” she replied. We were shocked to hear such statements, but we were at the same time assured that no matter what it is, we should not trust blindly diffused and broadcast news until we check its reliability. Hence, media stand as the only small window through which the West and also Orient look at each other. As a result, and due to media bias, none of the two parties have constructed a real and unbiased image of the other. Rather, only misrepresentation, misconceptions and distorted images are the fruits that both parties are still reaping.
In his famous book “The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of the World Order”, Samuel Huntington (1997) contended that the coming clashes between countries will be neither economic nor political incentive, but it would be a cultural and a religious conflict towards power exertion. In other words, it would be a clash between an Islamic civilization, expanded from Morocco to Pakistan, and the West. These civilizations have no determined geographical borders; they are “imagined communities” (Benedict Anderson, 1991) attached together basing on common interests, be they economic, political or ideological.
Such cultural division is a nationalist project that takes place even within the same community. The Islamic nation, for instance, has been separated into ‘Modern Islam’, in which it is influenced by liberal and ‘democratic’ creeds of the European and American models, and ‘Traditional Islam’ where practitioners are still preserving primitive ways of life. This latter are usually referred to as extremists who neglect to integrate in the world civilized and modern model, and, as a result, they contribute to unreasonable commitments.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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